The CPI of the pandemic – 06/08/2021 – Pedro Hallal

The Parliamentary Inquiry Commissions, popularly known by their nickname CPI, have already touched Brazil. In 1992, a CPI culminated in the resignation of President Fernando Collor. In 1993, the CPI of the budget dwarves led to the impeachment of six parliamentarians. In 2005, the CPI of Correios ended up revealing the monthly allowance scheme to Brazil.

There is no doubt, therefore, of the importance of the CPIs, especially in the post-military dictatorship period. However, the CPI of the pandemic brings, for the first time, the debate on science and technology as a central agenda. It was time for this subject to be discussed on national television.

The Brazilian science and technology system is asking for help. For years (and not only in the current government), Brazilian science has suffered from cutbacks. The budgets of CNPq and Capes, the main funding agencies in the country, have been reduced annually, even leading to the exodus of researchers out of Brazil. To complete the tragedy, public universities, responsible for more than 90% of national scientific production, have been underfunded for years.

More recently (then yes, specifically in the current government), science and universities have also been attacked in their essence. Public demonstrations that the earth is flat or that vaccines are made from dead fetuses seem commonplace. One (un)minister of education publicly claimed that universities were the site of the turmoil and accused them (without evidence, of course) of hosting marijuana plantations.

For all these reasons, having science as the guiding theme of a CPI is so important. First, the CPI has already unmasked the difference between scientists and quacks. In science, the quality measures of each researcher are available on a public platform, the Lattes curriculum, maintained by CNPq.

Brazilian researchers are evaluated in several ways: (a) the most productive in Brazil receive research productivity grants; (b) they are also evaluated by the number of publications, especially in high-impact scientific journals; (c) another important measure is the number of citations, also measured by the H index, a metric that combines citations with the number of publications; (d) in general, researchers are linked to graduate programs, where they train new researchers.

Researchers have only recently started to be heard at the CPI, but some suspicions are already confirmed:

1. There is a parallel Ministry of Health, with a direct line to the President of the Republic.

2. The health policy adopted by the federal government to deal with the pandemic was that of herd immunity.

3. Initial vaccine offers were boycotted.

4. Public money was used to produce an ineffective drug, preventing investment in what really works to control the pandemic.

5. There was negligence by the federal government in relation to the sanitary collapse that took place in Manaus.

Even with so many answers, there are still many questions to be asked. I quote those that most directly involve this columnist:

1. Why did the Ministry of Health censor the Epicovid19 data that showed that indigenous people had a five times greater risk of contamination by Covid-19 compared to white people? Who ordered the censorship?

2. Why was funding for Epicovid19 cut without technical justification, and nine months later, the ministry submitted a proposal for a similar study costing 16 times the cost?

3. How many deaths has the antiscience stance of the federal government caused, without comparison with the world average and with the most successful countries in the fight against the coronavirus?

4. How many deaths were caused by the federal government’s refusal to acquire, in an agile way, the vaccines that were offered to us?

Researcher is like that… the questions are as important as the answers.

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